Travel management is about the people for Ghazal
After 12 years in the industry, Ghazal Gholam-Hossein knows how to book business travel that suits each client’s needs. Her secret is building relationships to really understand what they want.
As the manager of Flight Centre Business Travel’s George Street office in Sydney, Ghazal - known as GG to her clients and colleagues - credits her relationships with her clients for making her work even more enjoyable.
Here, GG gives us an insight into what it’s like to be a travel manager for small to medium businesses and why her personal touches make all the difference to her clients.
No two days are the same
While there are certainly similarities, no two days are ever quite the same for GG. With a portfolio of 21 clients to manage, her days are busy responding to and actioning travel requests. And when she’s not booking her corporate clients’ travel, she’s managing her team of five business travel experts.
“I’m certainly kept busy working with my team to make sure all of our clients’ travel booking needs are being exceeded, because our clients come first. Fortunately, at the stage that I'm at, my relationships with my clients are established; they know they can call or email me with their requests, and I know about their preferences and requirements,” says GG.
But the service GG provides goes beyond knowing where her clients like to sit on the plane. She works closely with them to ensure she understands what they want to achieve from their annual travel program and how she can help them get there.
“Knowing what my clients want to get out of their travel program means I can look at and recommend ways to ensure we help manage their travel – not just book it – and achieve their goals,” says GG.
Variety keeps the day interesting
From the types of businesses she works with to the type of travel she’s booking, the variety in GG’s day keeps work interesting. With clients across mining, technology, safety equipment manufacturing and not-for-profit sectors, GG can be working across multiple accounts at once.
“There are about 10 to 15 of my clients that are regular bookers; I might talk to them every day or two, or sometimes multiple times a day. The rest might be less frequent but will book a significant amount at once, say for an annual conference,” says GG.
And the type of travel booked varies greatly as well.
“I book a lot of flights because that's the most important aspect of travel to be personalised; people like a certain class or seat or have airline or time preferences. Hotel stays are next because, for my clients, location is crucial. And of course, ground transport, like transfers, hire cars, I even booked rail for a client recently,” says GG.
Different needs, big and small
With a variety of clients and travel requirements, budget is also a consideration, with a higher travel budget opening up opportunities for more frequent travel or a higher standard. And GG says that clients usually know what they want to focus their travel dollar on: "Some clients have strict ‘best fare of the day' or lowest priced accommodation budget requirements, or the other end of the spectrum is that they fly business class. We can go from booking a caravan park in a regional centre to a luxury suite somewhere around the world.”
And with mining industry clients on her books, regional travel is a big part of GG’s travel booking requests.
“I book a lot of mine-spec vehicles for travel to mine sites because they have the equipment that my clients need; they're ideal for my clients who have that specific requirement for car hire when travelling.”
Business travel runs at a faster pace
While she's worked for Flight Centre Travel Group across her whole career, GG worked in the leisure arm for several years early on but prefers the pace that working with corporate clients brings.
“With leisure travel, you can speak with someone about their holiday plans over a period of time. But with corporate clients, they know what they need, and when they need it, so you could be speaking to them and then have a big itinerary booked within an hour," says GG.
Being able to quickly turn around big travel bookings and save her clients time are among the comments that GG receives from her clients when they do review meetings.
“Some clients I’ve had for 6-7 years because our process works so well. We try and keep things easy and save them time wherever possible. That is a no-brainer for our clients; the reason they reach out to us in the first place is to save them time and money,” says GG.
The people are the best part
If you ask GG what she loves most about her job, it isn’t the responsibility, variety or the pace; although she enjoys them too. It's the people she works with.
“I love to book travel and to get to work with the clients that I do makes my job so much more enjoyable. My work is based on personal interaction, so because I’m dealing with real people it’s less mundane and more interesting,” says GG.
And the personal touch that GG provides doesn’t go unnoticed by her clients.
“My clients really appreciate that I remember their frequent flyer details and their meal or seat preferences; it’s the little details but having those personal relationships with my clients makes the process a lot smoother,” says GG.
While GG has several clients who book frequently, she can liaise with one person within a business to book their travel for the whole company or work directly with every employee that travels.
"Sometimes we start with one contact, but when they see how easy the process is, they realise they can save more time internally by having their employees work with me directly. And that means more people I get to build relationships with,” says GG.
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